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The Problem of Alzheimer's: How Science, Culture, and Politics Turned a Rare Disease into a Crisis and What We Can Do About It

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A definitive and compelling book on one of today's most prevalent illnesses. In 2020, an estimated 5.8 million Americans had Alzheimer’s, and more than half a million died because of the disease and its devastating complications. 16 million caregivers are responsible for paying as much as half of the $226 billion annual costs of their care. As more people live beyond their A definitive and compelling book on one of today's most prevalent illnesses. In 2020, an estimated 5.8 million Americans had Alzheimer’s, and more than half a million died because of the disease and its devastating complications. 16 million caregivers are responsible for paying as much as half of the $226 billion annual costs of their care. As more people live beyond their seventies and eighties, the number of patients will rise to an estimated 13.8 million by 2050. Part case studies, part meditation on the past, present and future of the disease, The Problem of Alzheimer's traces Alzheimer’s from its beginnings to its recognition as a crisis. While it is an unambiguous account of decades of missed opportunities and our health care systems’ failures to take action, it tells the story of the biomedical breakthroughs that may allow Alzheimer’s to finally be prevented and treated by medicine and also presents an argument for how we can live with dementia: the ways patients can reclaim their autonomy and redefine their sense of self, how families can support their loved ones, and the innovative reforms we can make as a society that would give caregivers and patients better quality of life. Rich in science, history, and characters, The Problem of Alzheimer's takes us inside laboratories, patients' homes, caregivers’ support groups, progressive care communities, and Jason Karlawish's own practice at the Penn Memory Center.


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A definitive and compelling book on one of today's most prevalent illnesses. In 2020, an estimated 5.8 million Americans had Alzheimer’s, and more than half a million died because of the disease and its devastating complications. 16 million caregivers are responsible for paying as much as half of the $226 billion annual costs of their care. As more people live beyond their A definitive and compelling book on one of today's most prevalent illnesses. In 2020, an estimated 5.8 million Americans had Alzheimer’s, and more than half a million died because of the disease and its devastating complications. 16 million caregivers are responsible for paying as much as half of the $226 billion annual costs of their care. As more people live beyond their seventies and eighties, the number of patients will rise to an estimated 13.8 million by 2050. Part case studies, part meditation on the past, present and future of the disease, The Problem of Alzheimer's traces Alzheimer’s from its beginnings to its recognition as a crisis. While it is an unambiguous account of decades of missed opportunities and our health care systems’ failures to take action, it tells the story of the biomedical breakthroughs that may allow Alzheimer’s to finally be prevented and treated by medicine and also presents an argument for how we can live with dementia: the ways patients can reclaim their autonomy and redefine their sense of self, how families can support their loved ones, and the innovative reforms we can make as a society that would give caregivers and patients better quality of life. Rich in science, history, and characters, The Problem of Alzheimer's takes us inside laboratories, patients' homes, caregivers’ support groups, progressive care communities, and Jason Karlawish's own practice at the Penn Memory Center.

30 review for The Problem of Alzheimer's: How Science, Culture, and Politics Turned a Rare Disease into a Crisis and What We Can Do About It

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jan Peregrine

    The Problem of Alzheimer's~~ The title should've told me the 2020 book wasn't a happy one about solutions to Alzheimer's Disease. The Problem of Alzheimer's explains in rather horrific detail how the brain disease was discovered and, well, recognized, in the midst of last century. It's been mistaken for senility caused by aging and denied or ignored. U.S. Presidents, starting with George H.W. Bush, defunded the project to find a cure for tt until Barack Obama took it up. It's a heavy book filled w The Problem of Alzheimer's~~ The title should've told me the 2020 book wasn't a happy one about solutions to Alzheimer's Disease. The Problem of Alzheimer's explains in rather horrific detail how the brain disease was discovered and, well, recognized, in the midst of last century. It's been mistaken for senility caused by aging and denied or ignored. U.S. Presidents, starting with George H.W. Bush, defunded the project to find a cure for tt until Barack Obama took it up. It's a heavy book filled with doctors who learned how to diagnose it, but not how to treat it or even how to describe what their families as caregivers could do to help their loved ones. This disease keeps killing more and more people around the world, but the book focuses on the U..S. Response, or lack thereof. My adoptive mother suffered and died from it. I saw her struggle to speak, then remember simple words and how to play a game we always enjoyed. You would think my older brother would've included her many framed jigsaw puzzles at her funeral. They were beautiful and the last creative thing she did before the disease, triggered by mini-strokes, took over. But no. The one hopeful note I found in the book is that AD is detected earlier so treatment can be started earlier, but I didn't read of how omega-3 fatty acids should be taken. Only that head injuries, mini-strokes, and syphilis can cause it, as well as the beta amyloid plaques and tau tangles. Today I signed up for a free, twelve-day video series about working doctors treating their AD patients with natural, integrative solutions. I'll let you know about it or sign up yourself from the post on my Facebook page. I think people living with the tragedy, especially the caregivers, will want to trudge through this depressing book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Aly

    "The Problem of Alzheimer's" is the first book I have finished reading in 2021, and I have to say I started this year off right. It was a shock that this was the first book as I am not someone who reads medical-based non-fiction often. I don't remember what I expected it to be – maybe more slow-paced with that typical all-knowing doctor tone. However, the book is a real story - a compelling and comprehensive one that works to untangle a modern-day medical crisis. Karlawish is an intelligent indiv "The Problem of Alzheimer's" is the first book I have finished reading in 2021, and I have to say I started this year off right. It was a shock that this was the first book as I am not someone who reads medical-based non-fiction often. I don't remember what I expected it to be – maybe more slow-paced with that typical all-knowing doctor tone. However, the book is a real story - a compelling and comprehensive one that works to untangle a modern-day medical crisis. Karlawish is an intelligent individual who has personal and professional knowledge, but he doesn't overplay his words. He talks straight. His openness and honesty are rarely seen in the non-fiction genre. I don't think there's anyone who wouldn't benefit from reading this book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Simms

    A very detailed and informative book on the history of Alzheimer's disease, with disappointingly few takeaways for moving forward. The book opens with the modern history of Alzheimer's starting in the 1980s up through around 2013, as the medical establishment begins to reassess Alzheimer's as a major cause of senile dementia and begins to make some breakthroughs for diagnosing the disease while a patient is still alive. Then, though, it takes a curious detour back to Alois Alzheimer himself and A very detailed and informative book on the history of Alzheimer's disease, with disappointingly few takeaways for moving forward. The book opens with the modern history of Alzheimer's starting in the 1980s up through around 2013, as the medical establishment begins to reassess Alzheimer's as a major cause of senile dementia and begins to make some breakthroughs for diagnosing the disease while a patient is still alive. Then, though, it takes a curious detour back to Alois Alzheimer himself and the earliest history of the disease (and its subsequent fall out of the spotlight). The book's narrative momentum suffers here. It seems like it would have made more sense to tell the history of Alzheimer's treatments linearly; as it is, the first part is a story of scientific progress and achievement (with setbacks, both medical and political, along the way), and then the second part feels like a storyteller pausing in the middle of the action to give an exhaustive backstory of a minor character. Yes, Alois Alzheimer and his contemporaries were major figures in the initial descriptions of the disease that bears his name. But the first part of the book already established that the disease was not a major target of study or medical attention and understanding, and by that point we don't really need to know exactly why. I found myself impatiently skimming sections talking about economic conditions in inter-war Germany, anxious to get back to the more interesting stuff about ongoing breakthroughs in Alzheimer's care. Unfortunately, the book doesn't really have that much to offer on that front either, in the end. Part of that is just a terrible byproduct of Alzheimer's research at this time. It's not cured; there's no magical treatment; this is not a story of how we "beat" a disease, and there's not going to be a triumphant climax. But I was hoping for some more concrete good news on either a therapeutic strategy for Alzheimer's writ large or actionable advice for dealing with Alzheimer's disease in loved ones or in yourself. Maybe I expected too much of the book, but my expectations were a little disappointed. If you want to know, in sometimes overly-exhaustive detail, the history of Alzheimer's and the medical techniques used to diagnose it (if not exactly treat it, yet), then read this book. It certainly provides that in spades, and has a good amount of thought-provoking and interesting asides (such as the discussion of whether to follow a pre-Alzheimer's person's living will or trust the person that occasionally surfaces from the dementia, even when their wishes disagree, or the anecdotes about different methods that have been used to alleviate people's disorientation). Just, maybe read Part 2 before Part 1.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    THE PROBLEM OF ALZHEIMER'S by Jason Karlawish received starred reviews from Kirkus ("an outstanding primer") and Library Journal ("a must-read"). I have ordered a copy for our high school library since this is a high interest topic for many of our students. They are watching parents face tough choices with respect to care for grandparents as well as dealing with their own feelings of missing the grandparent they once knew and fear about the disease in general. Karlawish, University of Pennsylvan THE PROBLEM OF ALZHEIMER'S by Jason Karlawish received starred reviews from Kirkus ("an outstanding primer") and Library Journal ("a must-read"). I have ordered a copy for our high school library since this is a high interest topic for many of our students. They are watching parents face tough choices with respect to care for grandparents as well as dealing with their own feelings of missing the grandparent they once knew and fear about the disease in general. Karlawish, University of Pennsylvania professor and co-director of Penn Memory Center, has subtitled his book "How Science, Culture, and Politics Turned a Rare Disease into a Crisis and What We Can Do About It." He divides the book into sections titled Alzheimer's Unbound; The Birth of Alzheimer's Disease; Living Well in the House of Alzheimer's, and A Humanitarian Problem. He reviews key points in the history of the disease (including founding of Alzheimer's Association in 1979 and scientific papers labeling it the "disease of the century" in 1981 and a 2009 report titled A National Alzheimer’s Strategic Plan), tracing "the story of how once upon a time, Alzheimer's was a rare disease, and then it became common, and then it turned into a crisis." As with climate change, scientists have been warning us about the physical, emotional, and economic impact of dementia as members of our society age, leading to questions of policy and government involvement. Karlawish describes scientific advances, opportunities in social, environmental, and psychological interventions for patients and caregivers, as he "explains why and what we have to do." This call to action is an extremely valuable resource written in an accessible manner, complete with notes, a glossary, selected bibliography, and helpful index.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nathaniel Chin

    This is a "must read." Whether you have been impacted by Alzheimer's disease, concerned about your own future, or simply interested in learning more about the disease this book will grab your attention and never let go. The author tells a fascinating story about how we got to where we are today and the influences culture, society, and politics had on the science itself. He tells personal stories from his own clinic and weaves everything together to share a message that we can do better for each This is a "must read." Whether you have been impacted by Alzheimer's disease, concerned about your own future, or simply interested in learning more about the disease this book will grab your attention and never let go. The author tells a fascinating story about how we got to where we are today and the influences culture, society, and politics had on the science itself. He tells personal stories from his own clinic and weaves everything together to share a message that we can do better for each other. The book is more than a historical account of Alzheimer's disease, it is a call to action with proposed ideas on how we can improve the care for people with cognitive impairment and the caregivers who support them. As a Geriatrician, an educator, and a family member of someone affected by the disease, I recommend this book to patients, caregivers, health care providers, students, community members, and anyone invested in a better tomorrow.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Alanna

    Have not finished this yet, but it is truly a wonderful book. I am very glad for the opportunity I had to enter and win this book in a giveaway! I learned so much about Alzheimer's that I did not know before and as an aspiring neurologist this was truly a delight. Karlawish goes into detail about Alzheimer's the thief of autonomy, and gives us the hard facts incorporating science, culture and politics all in one. Highly recommend for anyone interested in the medical field! If you are an aspiring Have not finished this yet, but it is truly a wonderful book. I am very glad for the opportunity I had to enter and win this book in a giveaway! I learned so much about Alzheimer's that I did not know before and as an aspiring neurologist this was truly a delight. Karlawish goes into detail about Alzheimer's the thief of autonomy, and gives us the hard facts incorporating science, culture and politics all in one. Highly recommend for anyone interested in the medical field! If you are an aspiring doctor,nurse, worker in the medical field or simply love learning about science,culture and politics; grab yourself a copy and you will not regret it! Looking forward to more books from Karlawish!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

    Unfortunately, almost all of us have dealt with the problem of dementia in our own families or know others who have. A diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease is a terrifying proposition and still carries a great deal of stigma. It was fascinating to read the historical background of this disease, including the political roadblocks. I was most impressed with the author's concern for treating his patients with respect and dignity. Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for the advance copy to read a Unfortunately, almost all of us have dealt with the problem of dementia in our own families or know others who have. A diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease is a terrifying proposition and still carries a great deal of stigma. It was fascinating to read the historical background of this disease, including the political roadblocks. I was most impressed with the author's concern for treating his patients with respect and dignity. Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for the advance copy to read and review.

  8. 4 out of 5

    William T

    This is a good book and a necessary book. While we don't have any Alzheimer disease in our close family, we do have some experience with the disease second hand. If nothing else, you should read this book to understand what others are going through, where we are in the science and what we need to do as a society. There is much to praise in this author's writing and in this author's chosen career. This is a good book and a necessary book. While we don't have any Alzheimer disease in our close family, we do have some experience with the disease second hand. If nothing else, you should read this book to understand what others are going through, where we are in the science and what we need to do as a society. There is much to praise in this author's writing and in this author's chosen career.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Julie White

    This book is so good! I found it very interesting and very informative. I learned a lot about something that many people are effected by (far more than I realized) and found that it is written in a way that is accessible to people without a medical background. I will definitely be passing my copy around for my family to read it too!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kristen Campbell

    A few new developments since the 1980s, but not much.

  11. 4 out of 5

    SeaShore

    This was okay. From a political standpoint, it is very informative. I was looking for a book such as The Anti-Alzheimer's Prescription: The Science-Proven Prevention Plan to Start at Any Age by Vincent Fortanasce . Dr Forranasce witnessed the decline of his father. This was okay. From a political standpoint, it is very informative. I was looking for a book such as The Anti-Alzheimer's Prescription: The Science-Proven Prevention Plan to Start at Any Age by Vincent Fortanasce . Dr Forranasce witnessed the decline of his father.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Anujna

  13. 4 out of 5

    DLK

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mary

  15. 4 out of 5

    Erica

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

  17. 4 out of 5

    Britt

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

  19. 4 out of 5

    Chris Dasaro

  20. 5 out of 5

    Laird2

  21. 4 out of 5

    Donna Gicker

  22. 4 out of 5

    Terrell Ball

  23. 4 out of 5

    Bill

  24. 4 out of 5

    Audrey

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jane

  26. 4 out of 5

    Katie Ottley

  27. 5 out of 5

    Courtney

  28. 5 out of 5

    Frank Loorie

  29. 5 out of 5

    Karolina

  30. 4 out of 5

    Fred Henry

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